University Launches Project to Provide Much-Needed Mental Health Care

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By University Communications
Friday, 05 17 2024 LenzSAN ANTONIO - A&M-San Antonio Professor Stephen Lenz is spearheading an innovative new project to address the behavioral and mental health disparities in South Bexar County.  

The South Bexar County Mental Health Awareness Project will focus on training primary, secondary, and higher education personnel to recognize and assess symptoms of mental health challenges. They will also be equipped with the tools and resources necessary to refer those struggling with mental illness to the next level of support.  

“It’s a multifaceted approach,” said Lenz, chair of the University’s Department of Counseling, Health and Kinesiology. “The project is grounded in the idea that you don't have to be a mental health professional to make a mental health difference in the lives of others.” 

In South Bexar County, which is designated a “health provider shortage area” by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a high percentage of K-12 students report struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and self-injury. These experiences appear to persist among undergraduate and graduate students who also reported experiencing high instances of similar challenges and a need for additional emotional and mental health support, according to recent Healthy Minds data. 

“When you look at South Bexar County’s regional footprint for providing mental health support, there's a clear need for increasing resources for individuals within K-16 educational settings,” said Lenz.  

The South Bexar County Mental Health Awareness Project aims to increase the number of individuals who can help meet this need. Funded by a three-year, $591,000 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant, the project will implement mental health awareness training and increase K-16 personnel’s capacity to connect and refer students to culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services.  

Initially, the project will use training resources including Youth Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education programs to certify 12 instructors. The goal is to train 945 individuals as mental health first aiders over 3 years, while also helping facilitate a 10% year-over-year increase in K-16 students referred to community- or campus-based mental health partners.  

Lenz said that at A&M-San Antonio, graduates who undergo this training will enter the workforce not only with a degree and related professional credentials but also with the awareness and interpersonal skills to provide mental health support in their communities.  

“They will be able to recognize the challenges that some of our students may be experiencing and know how to connect those students with the resources they need,” said Lenz. “This program hinges on taking the social capital that teachers and educators have with students to create a protective support system for those who are struggling.”  


About Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Established as a stand-alone university in 2009, Texas A&M University-San Antonio is a comprehensive four-year public university that reflects the culturally diverse, heritage-rich community it serves. Situated on nearly 700 acres in South San Antonio, the University offers 39 undergraduate degrees and 23 graduate degrees to about 7,620 students. A&M-San Antonio is home to the Henry G. Cisneros Institute for Emerging Leaders, the Cyber Engineering Technology/Cyber Security Research Center, and the Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement. The University holds the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) designation and is one of 39 higher education institutions in the U.S. to have received the Seal of Excelencia certification from Excelencia in Education for its support of Latino student success. More than 77 percent of A&M-SA students identify as Hispanic, and approximately 72 percent are the first in their families to attend college. A&M-San Antonio is a military-embracing institution; the University was recently awarded the 2023 Gold Veteran Education Excellence Recognition Award (VEERA) from the Texas Veterans Commission. Visit for more information. #onamission